Friday, September 30, 2016

The sandwich-less lunch

Some moms pack their kids’ lunches the night before the school day but I pack my kids’ lunches in the morning while they’re getting ready or eating breakfast. With Jesse, he usually wants the same thing for lunch: A peanut butter sandwich, chips or crackers, juice box and a cookie. But Jennifer likes a little more variety; she never eats the same lunch every single day. When Jennifer tells me what she wants in her lunch for the day, there is usually a sandwich included. That changed this week.

On Monday, she had a sandwich in her lunch, but later, she didn’t request a sandwich that time. She’d noted in the past that she didn’t want to keep taking a sandwich in her lunch so this week, she went sandwich-less. I have heard of other parents ditching sandwiches for their kids’ lunches. Some have had wraps or even the items needed to make “sandwich crackers.” I have come across many articles specifically talking about sandwich-free lunches. Until now, the only change my kids have had with sandwich lunches are cracker sandwiches (usually through a Lunchable). But now Jennifer was ready to go sandwich-less for lunch!

The first sandwich-free lunch looked more like a bunch of snacks rather than a lunch. I have asked Jennifer if she’d try a wrap instead of a sandwich but she wasn’t interested. Her “snack lunch” contained Goldfish crackers, Cheetos, a granola bar, Oreos and a juice box.

The second sandwich-free lunch is what I like to call the “breakfast lunch.” I have told my kids there’s nothing wrong with eating cereal for dinner. Why not for lunch, as well?

Her breakfast lunch included Life cereal and Honey Nut Chex. There were also potato chips, peanuts, and Nilla wafers. Along with a juice box!

Today, however, Jennifer decided to go back to having a sandwich in her lunch. It was a fun experience to try something different from the same old sandwich for lunch, though! I would definitely be willing to try this again and also give other sandwich-free lunch ideas a try should either of my kids want something different for lunch that day.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Two Open Houses

Earlier this month, I got a notice from Jesse’s school that there was going to be an Open House. The date I was given was September 27th. I marked it on the calendar. Then I got an email about an “Open House” on the 20th of this month. I thought it was from Jennifer’s school so I noted it as such on my calendar. Then I got ANOTHER “Open House” notice in my email inbox. I was confused as to why I got two.

Then Jesse brought home a notice, on paper, about Open House at his school – scheduled for September 20th.

Wait a minute, what?

I checked the school calendar and it had “Open House” on the 20th. No way! I reread both emails I got – and FINALLY got to the part, at the bottom, that it was from Jesse’s school, not Jennifer’s school.

So, apparently, BOTH schools were having an Open House on the same day. ARGH!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Scheduling conflicts, you irk me!

Sigh. Why can’t there be two of me?

I didn’t want to miss EITHER Open House so I tried to figure out a plan.

The good news was, the Open House email I got from Jennifer’s school had the schedule for the night spread out. I compared it with the times for Jesse’s Open House – and I found my solution! Jesse’s Open House ended at 7:00, which was when Jennifer’s Open House officially began. I was only interested in touring the classes and meeting her teachers. That’s. It. I did not want to go to the “parent social event’ at 6:30. No, thank you. I only know my daughter’s friend’s parents at that school and I was certain I would see them later since our daughters are in a class together. I REALLY didn’t want to socialize with the other parents! So I figured we could skip all that and be there by 7.

Thankfully, the Open House at Jesse’s school did not take long. We were in and out of there, got everything done, in 45 minutes. Jesse has two teachers this year (an a.m. teacher and p.m. teacher) and his p.m. teacher is one of Jen’s old teachers. It was nice for them to see each other again. Jennifer smiled and hugged her but they didn’t have much chance to talk because Jesse had A LOT to talk with her about! Still, the visit was sweet, albeit short.

We were at Jennifer’s school, however, for an hour and a half! I really had not planned to stay that long, but we DID have to follow the schedule just like everybody else. But the important thing is that I got to see her classrooms and meet her teachers. They were all awesome! (I also scheduled two conferences with Jesse’s teacher when we were at his school – the second conference is to discuss his eligibility for the Talented and Gifted program. Jen was evaluated for TAG when she was a student there and did not make the cut. I hope Jesse can get in!)

I loved touring Jen’s school all over again. Her school is so cool! And, like her, my favorite part was the Science Wing. Yay for Science! She showed me her locker, where she and her BFF eat lunch every day and also the cafeteria. I wanted to see the library but when we got there, there was a meeting going on inside. Wah. I reached out to the books and dramatically whispered, “I’ll come back for you.” How I wanted to see the books in the library!

Still, it was a great evening. We got home pretty late (at almost 9!) but it was a good evening and I’m glad I got to meet Jen’s teachers. She loves her new school and gets along well with her teachers. I am grateful both kids are having a good school year so far.

Monday, September 12, 2016

For five schools in Eugene, there IS such a thing as a free lunch!

Usually, before a new week of school starts, I will take some time to go over the week’s lunch menu in order to anticipate which days Jesse will be buying lunch or if he will be taking a lunch. That’s what I was doing yesterday afternoon. Jennifer has informed me that she wants to take a lunch to school every day, though I did ask her if she’d be willing to try the school lunch food every once in a while and she said she would. Jesse, however, has not yet decided if he wants to take a lunch every day, so we are pretty much leaving that open. If he likes what is being served for lunch, then he’ll buy it. But if not, then not.

So, I logged onto the school lunch menu site yesterday and brought up the menu. I called Jesse over to stand next to me and look at tomorrow’s lunch with me. Seeing something he would like to try, he told me he would buy lunch for today. I told him that that was fine and he did have money in his school lunch account, so that wasn’t a problem.

“Look, Mom, lunch is free,” he said, pointing at an area of the menu. I looked to where he was pointing and was surprised to discover that, this year, lunch for all students was indeed free. F-R-E-E!!! The school usually served breakfast to students for free, but now breakfast and lunch were both free! Hooray!

We both cheered and hugged over this good news.

It is sooo nice to have the weight of worry off of my shoulders over being able to make sure there was money available for my son’s school lunches. Last year, it was pretty rough, and there were times his lunch account got very negative. Now we won’t have to worry about that this year! I am so glad!

It’s interesting that this happened because just the other day I was grumbling over how people in jail get 3 meals a day for free but children in schools have to pay for just one lunch!

Also, over the summer, I was reading about schools that were now offering students free lunches. I got into a conversation with someone on Facebook about this and I was saying how I wished more schools would do this. There are so many families out there struggling to put food on the table as it is and they can barely have any food or money for their kids’ school lunches. For many children in many families, a school lunch is the only decent meal a child would receive in one day! I am glad that some schools offer free breakfast and/or free lunch to the students. I just wish every school in America could do that!

Even so, I was wondering why there was a change now. What brought about this change in policy? Was it a long-term thing? Did other schools in the area do this, too? Would we have to compensate in other areas of the school in order to make up for money lost on school lunches?

I got my answers today, when my son brought home a flyer explaining the situation. Basically, there is something called the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which is part of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. This program selects a certain handful of schools in different areas to determine if they are eligible to serve free lunches to students. Eligible schools must have enough students that meet the program’s criteria. The 5 schools in Eugene that are serving free lunch to students this year are: Cesar Chavez Elementary, Howard Elementary, McCornack Elementary, River Road/El Camino del Rio Elementary, and Arts & Technology Academy. My son’s school is one of those 5 schools in Eugene that are eligible for the CEP. One of the other schools is the school my daughter attended last year! Oh, if only both of their schools were eligible for free lunches!

Still, Jen is happy to take a lunch to her high school, and that saves us money, too. I am still happy that at least one school is serving free lunches and we won’t have to worry about making sure my child has enough money to buy a hot meal.

I am very grateful and immensely relieved that my son’s school can now offer free breakfast AND lunch to students. It’s so important for a child to be well-fed, and hunger is a very big problem in today’s society. A child shouldn’t go hungry. I am grateful the CEP exists and so glad that for this year at least, students at 5 schools in Eugene can really have a free lunch.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

First day setbacks

Before the first day of school for the kids, which was today, I put together a schedule which I felt would enable me to get everything done for their morning routine and get them to school on time, as well as my getting there on time to pick them up. Up until this week, I figured I would be dropping them both off and picking them both up at school.

That changed yesterday.

Yesterday was Jesse’s Meet & Greet, in which he met his new teachers (he has two and they take different shifts – and one of those teachers is a teacher which Jennifer had when she attended the school), saw his classroom and took care of other things he would need to be prepared for with the new school year.  One thing he had on his mind: Riding the school bus. Last year, he rode the bus for the Boys & Girls Club, but I didn’t sign him up for the B&GC this year because he was having problems with kids there. So as far as I knew: No bus this year. Jesse had other ideas! When we were there yesterday, and I was in the office taking care of his medical stuff with the school nurse, he asked about riding the bus to school. Last year, he was not allowed to ride the school bus because we live out of the school district. But we checked the school district website and it did say that kids living out of district can ride the school bus to the school now. Cool! Jesse was really excited about that. One of the secretaries seemed skeptical and she said if I could get Jesse to that bus stop, she would add him to the bus roster. I assured her I could do it. By car, the bus stop is only 5 minutes away. And I already did that one year, too! (Although there was a year that things got crazy because I was babysitting a child who attended another school and there was a scheduling conflict in trying to be in 2 places at the same time! Fortunately, my friend Martine came to my rescue. I am forever indebted to her for that!!)

So now Jesse has to leave the house at a different time to get to the bus stop in time. Before, he had 30 minutes to eat breakfast. (I gave him 30 minutes to eat because he takes FOREVER to eat. And do lots of other things…) Now, since we have to leave for the bus, he has 10 minutes to eat breakfast. I reminded him that this meant he could not fool around. He couldn’t play with his food, watch TV, chatter away about stuff or any other delays like that.

This morning, though, was the day the schedule was put to the test. All this time, we practiced going to bed and getting up according to schedule. But today was the Real Deal. It was pretty much when I was telling my kids, “OK, kids, time to hop to it. Remember your training. This is not a drill!” (When I’d first given them their new schedules, I told them, “Read it. Learn it. Memorize it.”)

So what happened?

Jesse woke up on time, but he ate breakfast earlier than planned. That gave him sufficient time to eat his breakfast AND brush his teeth before we left.

Jennifer threw a wrench into my expectations this morning when she told me that she didn’t want to buy lunch today; she wanted to take a lunch. I was soon in the kitchen, hurriedly preparing a school lunch for her. I reminded her that she needs to tell me these things in advance so that I can plan for them (instead of wasting time on the computer like I was actually doing until it was time to make her breakfast!). At least she gave advance notice that she would want to take lunches to school more often so we could buy things for school lunches at the store today. Fortunately, we did have what she needed for today. So now I have to factor in time to make her lunch in the mornings so that I can also make her breakfast in time! (I still managed to get everything done for her this morning and not only did we leave on time and I got her to school on time, but I got her there early!)

Then there was another debacle because of the bus. Jesse rode the bus to school this morning, but I think he got confused about what was going on later in the day. Like I had on my own personal schedule, I went for my walk this morning, spent some time reading and went to the gym. I got to the bus stop at the time I was supposed to be there for the drop-off.

But the bus didn’t show up!

One of the parents was there, too, and we waited on that corner for the bus to get there and deliver our children to us. I kept checking my phone to see the time and wondering what was going on. Why was it held up? I figured, first day stuff. Things are bound to go wrong on the first day of ANYTHING no matter how well you plan for it in advance. So maybe that was it. I kept trying to assure myself that the bus hadn’t been beamed up by aliens or that it had a flat tire or that the bus driver had gone crazy and took off with the kids still in the bus. (I told Jesse yesterday that I didn’t feel comfortable about him riding the school bus because, in the past, he got into fights with other boys and, also, I read all these stories of deranged bus drivers or accidents happening and it made me pretty nervous about putting my son on a school bus!)

The funny thing is, this morning, that same parent and I had been confused about what side of the street the bus would be on and we had been on the wrong side this morning. We figured we were on the RIGHT side for the drop-off now but even so, we both kept looking both ways up the street for the bus. (He even joked about it at one point.)

Finally, after almost 15 minutes, the bus appeared. We patiently waited for the bus to pull up and open its doors. I waited while kids started climbing off until I noticed Jesse was not among them. The bus driver, who Jesse and I both know from before, motioned to me and tried to tell me something but I could not lipread her. She grabbed a pen and wrote on a notebook of paper that Jesse had been confused about how he was getting home today. He thought I was picking him up so he didn’t get on the bus. I told her that was not the case and he was supposed to ride the bus and I thanked her for letting me know.

Wow, what a waste of time THAT had been! And all that time, Jesse had been at the school, waiting for me! Dammit!!

I drove to the school and parked the van in the lot. Before I got out of the van, I checked my phone. And NOW I got a text from the school about how Jesse had NOT taken the bus and was there for me to pick him up. I grumbled and mentally cursed as I got out of the van and ran to the office. Jesse was outside waiting for me and he ran over to hug me, smiling. There was a teacher’s aide with him and I told her that Jesse was supposed to take the bus home. I was not sure if I was supposed to inform his teachers. (Kids riding the school buses are dismissed a little earlier and put into separate lines heading out of the school.) I reminded Jesse that he DOES ride the bus now and we would tell him if that changed. (We would also notify his school office and teachers before dismissal.) I hope he will remember that from now on.

Other than those setbacks, everything else had gone just fine. I was able to get some lunch after I got home and have time to rest before leaving to get Jennifer. I got done the things I was supposed to get done.

The schedule sure was put to the test today. Despite slight changes to everything, it is still a schedule that works, so we’ll be using it from now on. I hope everybody just remembers all the small changes we have to make to it because of the last-minute surprises!

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Hope for our world?

Last night, I was very depressed. For a few days now, I have been feeling down. All of the negativity I have been exposed to was just too much for me. I turn on the news and there’s death, murder, violence and hate. I open the newspaper and there’s a ton of bad stuff going on. I get on the computer and people share links to a child being murdered, another ISIS attack somewhere in which thousands of people were slain/beheaded or something about government corruption (the poor getting poorer, the sick getting sicker and the hungry getting hungrier). It doesn’t help that I recently read a true crime book in which people killed a young, innocent girl and basically walked free after serving time. (After I finished reading that book, I lost all hope in humanity. I was so upset and outraged. I guess people can get away with murder now!)

And even with politics, there’s so much hatred and violence going around. Even candidates encouraging people to be violent or hateful towards our fellow human beings. They WANT religion to divide us. They WANT race to divide us. They WANT our nationality to divide us. They are not interested in bringing people together, only in dividing them and encouraging them to adopt the same hateful, discriminating mindset they have. I have grown disgusted with politics because of all the lying, hypocrisy and selfish agendas in every single politician.

It was just too much. Of course, I was also upset about my own personal problems, but I’m not going to get into that.

The world is a huge gigantic mess. It is all so messed up. I have written a book of poems about the negative things in this world and it was hard to write because it made my heart hurt so much.

So I was really upset about it all. And I have just given up hope for the world. I have given up ON the world entirely.

But then I had a dream last night. And to some people, maybe it didn’t mean anything, but it meant something to me.

In the dream, I saw different images of different parts of the world. And during that entire montage, I heard Gene Wilder singing part of that song he sang in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory: “If you want a view of paradise, simply look around and view it. If you want to, do it. Want to change the world, there’s nothing to it.”

Now I realize that song is about being creative and using your imagination to make your dreams come true. It’s also about believing in yourself to accomplish your dreams.

However, given my recent depressive episode, I saw the lines of that song differently. I interpreted them differently.

As so:

“If you want a view of paradise, simply look around and view it.”

This basically means if you are not happy with the state of things, have a clear idea of how you want them to be – what kind of changes you want to make – and keep that as your focus as you work to try to make it happen.

“If you want to, do it.”

I know one person cannot change the world. And with so much bad stuff going on in the world, it may seem overwhelming. Like nobody will care if you do something GOOD for the world or for people. Or it won’t make much difference.

Do it, anyway. It’s enough that you want to. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate to a food service for the poor, help the unfortunate, start a program that helps the homeless. If you want to do it, then do it!

“Want to change the world, there’s nothing to it.”

What this line said to me is that it can be the simplest thing that could make a positive difference in the world. Some people may think, “Oh, I’m not smart enough. I need money. I can’t do it alone. I don’t know where to start.” Etc. But really, it’s not that complicated to make a difference. Do a random act of kindness like paying for someone’s lunch or holding a door open for someone. Spread the word about a lost dog or share information about a missing child. The littlest and simplest things can make a positive difference.

Used to be I’d get so upset over the horrible state of our world that I would pray for it. Just pray for the world. But now I know I can take action and do things, too. Positive things. Things that can make a difference. It may not seem like much and I am only one person, but I think if we put more good things out there in the world, all of the bad things will not seem as terrible anymore.